A little over a month has passed since an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris was the target of a deadly terrorist attack. Since then, frontman Jesse Hughes has been in awe of the outpourings of support his fellow musicians have shown him. "If I get emotional, I apologize," he says, as tears well in his eyes and his voice deepens with emotion. "It's not in a bad way. I really am very touched by the true sense of community that I've experienced in rock & roll."
The day after the November 13th assault, in which ISIS terrorists took the lives of 89 concertgoers and one of the band's crew members at Bataclan, help from fellow rockers came immediately. "Bono called me to check in on me and was praying with me on the phone," Hughes says. And then, three days later, Duran Duran spoke up. Eagles of Death Metal had covered the New Wave group's haunting and now prescient 1982 single "Save a Prayer" on this year's Zipper Down. Now Duran Duran singer Simon LeBon was telling the world they'd donate all earnings from the cover to charity. "[We are] considering options that are useful, peaceful and uniting," LeBon tweeted. When Hughes and Eagles cofounder Josh Homme heard this, they were moved by the band's selflessness and decided to create their own charitable campaign, Play It Forward, for which they asked other bands to cover their catchy, feel-good Zipper Down track "I Love You All the Time."
On December 18th, Eagles of Death Metal launched their Play It Forward website, which features 13 cover versions of "I Love You All the Time" by bands as diverse as Imagine Dragons and Savages, as well as Florence and the Machine and My Morning Jacket. For each song, the band provided links to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and its own Play It Forward store in an effort to make it as easy as possible for fans to listen to the songs and, by proxy, send the band's royalties to the Sweet Stuff Foundation, an organization that regularly assists musicians in need and is currently allocating all donations to give to victims of the Paris attack. Pearl Jam also recorded a version of Eagles of Death Metal's "I Want You So Hard (Boy's Bad News)" live in Rio de Janeiro, which they put out as a single benefiting Play It Forward. What has astounded Hughes and Homme is the breadth of artists who submitted songs.
The Play It Forward campaign and the support of Eagles of Death Metal's peers and inspirations have not just created a way for the group to raise money for those affected by the attacks, Hughes says they've been "critical" in inspiring him to perform live again. The group that perhaps has been most encouraging in that regard has been U2, who were in Paris at the time of the attack and, even before that, had been longtime friends of the band and shown what Hughes describes as a "mutual love."
"Bono knows that I'm a Christian, and he also knows I'm a mama's boy," the singer says, holding back his emotion. "The very next day [after the attack], a courier came with a phone that had a note that said, 'This is from Bono. Make sure you call your mom.' I thought that was awesome. It was the first time that I really got to talk to my mom without being in a police station, and that meant the whole world to me at that moment.
"Then Bono called because I needed advice," Hughes continues. "I felt like the best person to ask for advice on how to deal with this is someone who's rubbed elbows with world leaders. And he just prayed with me on the phone. He kept my head off of things, and then U2 visited the memorial site and delivered lyrics of ours that he thought were appropriate. And that particularly was important to me because I really wanted to be out there. I didn't want to be in some safe house. I take personal pride in being really close to my fans. I knew a lot of the people personally that didn't make it, and that little detail, just on a personal note, is something that nobody else would ever know that it mattered, but it mattered to me. I didn't know how I was ever going to get back onstage again."
Eagles of Death Metal's next live appearance took place in Paris less than a month after the attack — at a U2 concert. "They were robbed of their stage, so we would like to offer them ours," Bono told 10s of thousands of fans at the AccorHotels Arena on December 7th. Each of the Eagles, sans Homme, then came out and stood next to their instrumental counterparts in U2 and performed Patti Smith's "People Have the Power." Hughes dressed head-to-toe in white.
When the tune ended, U2 left the stage and Eagles of Death Metal took the opportunity to play an ebullient rendition of "I Love You All the Time" as the final song of the night. As it wound down, Hughes walked to center stage with his right arm in the air, like a preacher reborn. "We love you so good," he told the crowd. "We hope you know this. Thank you, Paris. We will never give up rocking & rolling." Then, the five members joined arms and bowed.
He didn't show it that night, but Hughes admits now that he was afraid to go back. When it was done, he was glad he did. "U2 were trying to make sure we didn't have something in us killed," he says through tears. "They would have accomplished their goal if they had just performed the song with us. They didn't have to give us the stage for the last song. And they did. They took care of us completely. They were genuine and sincere, and they were very proud of our accomplishments after the fact. That was such a beautiful way to put training wheels on for performing."
Homme agrees. "I think for those boys that were in Paris to go back and play right away was really important," he says. "If you're going to let something build, it should be that confidence to go right back up there. I know that must have been difficult to do, and I was proud to watch those guys do that. It was really … " He stops. "Sometimes there's not words made yet to describe how you feel about something, and watching them, I wish I knew what letters to put together to explain how I felt. Can you imagine how tough that was?"
That show on U2's stage, Hughes says, instilled a sense of responsibility in him. "I know this sounds corny, but I feel bound to France forever now," he says. "The reaction of the country in general was wonderful to me, and so U2 gave me the opportunity to come back and go through my mourning process a little more naturally instead of feeling like I left my heart there."
It also gave the group the motivation it needed to tour again. On February 13th, they will kick off what they've dubbed their Nos Amis tour in Stockholm. Three days later, they will once again play Paris, this time at the Olympia, and they will continue to tour Europe through the first week of March. They've even planned a return trek to the continent in August. They will play the U.S. and, as Homme says, tour for the life of the record over the next couple of years.
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